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Todd Hoerner battles his way to front in IHRA Nitro Jam Palm Beach qualifying

In the very late night hours of Saturday, May 4, the rain-interrupted qualifying session for the IHRA Nitro Jam Palm Beach Nationals at Palm Beach International Raceway came to a thrilling conclusion as Todd Hoerner put down a chart-topping 6.259-second lap at 223.91 mph, good enough for the top qualifying position in the Mountain Motor Pro Stock division. His time showed the assembled crowd that he was not to be taken lightly, and bested teammate Cary Goforth and rival John DeFlorian who had been dominating every aspect of the Pro Stock season so far in 2014.

Bumblebee on display
AJ Sinclair

Hoerner's 6.259 in the Dean's Casing Service 2011 GXP was just enough to keep John DeFlorian Jr. from his second pole position of the season as DeFlorian clocked in with a 6.281 at 223.73 in the Black Diamond Motorsports 2012 Chevrolet Camaro. Pete Berner was third with a 6.346 at 222.62, followed by Cary Goforth and Kevin Bealko.

In Nitro Funny Car, Jason Rupert in the Bays and Rupert "Black Plague" Camaro climbed to the top of the charts with a 5.836 at 246.30, just enough to hold John "Bodie" Smith in the "Jungle Jim" Camaro at bay with a 5.845 at 243.50. "Mr. Explosive" Mark Sanders made it a three-pack of drivers in the 5.80s with a 5.859 at 250.09. Tim Boychuk qualified fourth with a 5.937, followed by Mike McIntire Jr., Ronnie Young, Mike Smith and Wayne Mellinger.

Perhaps of even more interest, the list of drivers that didn't qualify for Saturday's eliminations in Nitro Funny Car provided their own surprises. Bruce Litton, John Hale and Mike Halstead all failed to qualify in the nostalgia field.

North Carolina native Jay Turner led the nitro-fed motorcycle division, topping the Nitro Harley field with a 6.298-second pass at 224.25 mph. Floridian and local favorite Joey Sternotti was second with a 6.396 at 194.41 and Mike Pelrine was third with a 6.399 at 223.69. Most recent race winner Mark Cox qualified fourth with a 6.402, followed by points leader Randal Andras, Mike Scott, Larry Brancaccio and Alvin Kobernusz.

In the final nitro-burning class Ron Maroney topped the wild Nitro Altered division in the "Blind Faith" entry with a 6.307 at 220.37, followed closely by last race winner Don Blackshear in the "Bullet Bob" AA/FA with a 6.315 at 209.59. Brian Hope qualified third, followed by Kyle Hough, Ron Hope and Terry Haddock.

Elaine Larsen wrapped up Friday qualifying by topping the Jet Dragster class with a weekend-best pass of 5.781 at 277.77. Dawn Perdue was second and Marisha Falk and Kat Moller rounded out the four-car field.

If you're a South Florida resident, and enjoy the heart pounding excitement of feeling 10,0000 horsepower machines zooming in front of you at speeds approaching 300 miles per hour, be sure to head out west to the Palm Beach International Raceway. There is nothing that can compare to the sights, sounds, and yes, even smells that make up a Nitro Jam event. Racing continues on Saturday with eliminations in all of the professional classes plus sportsman bracket racing throughout the day at the IHRA Nitro Jam Palm Beach Nationals at